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Eternal Sonata
Score: 96%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: tri-Crescendo
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 3
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
First released for the 360 a little over a year ago, Eternal Sonata soon became an underground hit. The atypical battle system combined with the very beautiful (and yet educational) cutscenes proved to be irresistible to RPG fans everywhere. So much so that they decided to rerelease it for the PS3, with additional content even.

If you've played the 360 version, you're going to find this hard to believe, but the graphics look even better on the PS3. The colors seem to pop out at you. The movement of the characters shows no flaws. Part of the additional content is added cutscenes. The opening is now over 15 minutes long. Watching it pulls you into Polka's world and before you even play a single step in the game, you're already hooked. You can skip the cutscenes if you really want to, though.

Given that the game is all a dream of Frederic Francois Chopin, of course the music is nothing short of miraculous. Chopin's work has remained popular for centuries after his death. It provides a wonderful background story for an RPG. The voice acting is quite well done too. Salsa is my personal favorite. Where she got that accent from, I will never know! Since all the characters are from different cities and lands, it makes sense that they would sound different. They did a wonderful job of keeping them separate.


Gameplay:
For the most part, Eternal Sonata plays like any other RPG. You have a group of characters that wander around talking to people to find out where they need to go to complete their quests. In this case, you have several different groups of people who all end up on the same quest. Polka is a young girl who can use magic. In this world, that's a bad thing. It means that she has an incurable illness and will die before long. Polka is on a quest to convince Count Waltz to stop taxing the floral powder so highly that she and her mom sell, and to make some friends. Polka meets Frederic in the forest. Frederic Francois Chopin knows that this whole world is his dream and he's a part of the dream. Polka, of course, doesn't believe that she's just a dream. Frederic joins Polka on her quest to see more of this dream world.

Then there's Allegretto, Retto for short, and Beat. They live in Ritardando. They have made it their calling in life to try and steal enough bread to feed the orphans that live in the sewers. Bread (and everything except mineral powder) is taxed so highly that people can't even afford to eat. Retto and Beat set off to convince the Count to lower the taxes on food so that people don't starve to death. Eventually they meet up with Polka and Frederic and they all travel together. They pick up quite a few more people on the way who all want to talk to the king about the taxes. I can't begin to tell you how complex and intriguing the story is in Eternal Sonata. You'll get hooked quickly wanting to know what is going to happen next.


Difficulty:
Like any RPG, if you run straight through avoiding as many enemies as you can, you're going to have a difficult time in the boss battles. You need to at least keep your characters at a decent level. Luckily there are plenty of enemies around and for the most part, they're not that hard to beat.

To me, the hardest part was playing as Retto and Beat in the beginning. Since neither of them has any healing abilities, you have to rely on items to keep you from dying. But they did keep this is mind when they developed the game. The enemies that you play against at that time don't do too much damage at once and almost every battle, you would get a healing item as a drop.

As you get further in the game, the battle system gets harder but you get benefits from it as well. You have a Party Level. At the beginning, your thinking time is unlimited. As long as you're not moving, your time remaining doesn't decrease. When you go up to level 2 though, the time counts down from your first movement and doesn't stop when you do. But you can make combo chains for more powerful attacks, so it balances out. At level 3, you don't get unlimited thinking time at the beginning. You get 3 seconds and then the timer starts counting down. But you can now hold 20 items in your active item set and you can keep 2 light and 2 dark special moves on hand. As you can see, they make it so you get bonuses but lose thinking time further in the game. Once you've got the hang of the battle system, you really don't even notice the lost time and you really enjoy the more powerful attacks!


Game Mechanics:
Eternal Sonata works differently from any other RPG that I've played. It is turn-based, but during your turn, you are given a set time to do whatever attack you want. So in a way, it is action-based too. As I mentioned before, your party level determines how much time you get for your turn and how powerful your attacks can be. After level 1, your basic attacks will for chains. These chains flow from person to person, so you can use all your characters to max them out for the stronger attack available.

The game does a very good job of teaching you how to use the controls in the game. There is no concept of magic points. You can use your time to do whatever attack or magic you use. Magic will take longer though, so you won't be able to get as many attacks in. It sounds complicated when you read it, but it really is quite simple after you've listened to them explain it. The only character that I had any trouble with was Viola. Since she shoots a bow, you will have to aim it if you choose that attack. That wasn't really explained in the game, so it took some fiddling with the controls to get the hang of it.

I really enjoyed Eternal Sonata when I played it on the 360. Enough so that I am borrowing a PS3 just to get to review this version. I'm glad I did because it is even better than the other one. The additional content really is worth getting the game for, even if you already own it for the 360. I just can't say enough good things about Eternal Sonata. You need to go get it for yourself today!


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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